Leah's Journey

AN: Hello! Welcome to my little story about Leah Clearwater. I hated how everyone got a perfect, happy ending in the books except for her. I mean, when you think about it, she was probably going to be even more miserable after the end of Breaking Dawn, because even Jacob was happy again. Poor girl! So, this is just going to be a story about her journey back to happiness again. All canon couples, take place after Breaking Dawn. This is my first Twilight fic, and I'm just writing this on the fly. Please feel free to review, flame, criticize, or give suggestions or ideas. I try to respond to all reviewers in person. so thanks in advance for reading this!

On with the story!

This is your life, Leah Clearwater. Welcome to hell.

I scowled at the ceiling of my bedroom in the weak early morning light, wishing I was more like my little brother, who could sleep 18 hours straight without twitching. At least, if you didn't count snoring like a rusty chainsaw twitching. Sleep came harder for me, probably because I craved it's sweet, blank oblivion so much more.

I rolled over onto my stomach and buried my face in my pillow. Honestly, I was grateful to be sleeping in a bed at all. A few months ago, I hadn't had much choice but to crash under the trees until Nessie-the-half-human-wonder-child was born and everything got straightened out between the two packs. I didn't count the offer of sleeping on a bloodsucker bed as being a choice.

But now, with the Volturi threat taken care of- in the most boring possible way, in my opinion, too- everything had turned out just hunky-dory peachy keen.

For everyone else, that is.

My life was still stuck in the crapper. And it wasn't showing any signs of getting better, either. Besides the fact that I was still Jacob's second-in-command, Quil and Embry had broken off from the La Push pack to join ours. The "Vamp Pack", as Embry so eloquently put it. Quil wasn't such a nuisance, since he still spent the majority of his time with his precious Claire, but Embry was another story. He claimed it was too boring to hang around Quil and a two-year-old, and I guess I couldn't really blame him for that. But did he really have to hang around the Cullen's all the time, too?

Not that I wanted to be around the Cullens at all. But again, what kind of choice did I have? Jacob spent every moment of his free time there, fawning over his little half-breed, and Seth wasn't any better. My own brother could hardly wait to get over to the leeches' house everyday. I still couldn't believe how much he actually liked them.

If it was just them, I would've let them go play best friends with the bloodsuckers without me. But now my mother was involved, thanks to Charlie Swan. Lord knows, I was glad to see her looking happy again for the first time since my dad passed away, but this was a pretty steep price. My mom was wrapped up in Charlie, and Charlie was wrapped up in his freaky vampire daughter and Nessie the Wonder Child. Which meant that he spent the majority of his time with them, and naturally, so did my mom.

And today was going to be no exception.

"Hey, Leah, you awake?" Seth asked, poking his head around my door without even knocking.

"Mmrph," I mumbled into my pillow, willing him to go away. Stupid kid was altogether too chipper in the morning.

"Jake and I are heading over to the Cullens. You coming?"

I turned my head just enough to fix him with a one-eyed death glare. "Seth, it's barely eight in the morning. Why the hell are you going over there so early?"

"Leah, they don't sleep, remember? And Nessie gets up by seven or so. Jake wants to get there before Charlie shows up for the day." He leaned against the doorframe and grinned enthusiastically at me. "There's a big game on today, and Emmett just got a huge, new flat screen to watch it on."

I groaned, burying my face in the pillow again. Great. That just meant Charlie was going to make sure he got to watch all the games at the Cullens. And that meant Mom would be there every game day, too.

"So, should we wait for you, or are you gonna come with Mom later?"

"The less time I spend at the leeches' stinking house, the better," I snapped, rolling out of bed. Seth frowned at me, unhappy as always over my lack of enthusiasm. The crazy moron had some stupid idea that I shouldn't have a problem with the vamps anymore.

Right. Because my life taking a tailspin down the dumpster had nothing to do with them.

"Thought you were getting better..." Seth's muttering trailed off as he pushed away from my door and moved off down the hallway. I snorted, grabbing the first clothes from the top of my laundry basket and heading for the shower.

Getting better. What a laugh. How, exactly, was I supposed to be getting better? Yeah, things were easier being out of Sam's pack, and out of his head, but nothing had really changed. I'd been stupid to hope for it.

But I had hoped, back before Nessie the Wondervamp had been born. I'd hoped that when Jacob ran off again to deal with his own pain, I'd have gotten the courage to take off from La Push myself. Instead, all of Jake's pain had disappeared in one monumental instant, and I was still here, still hurting, still tied to La Push.

I scowled at the shower head, cranking the water as hot as it would possibly go. It still felt barely lukewarm to me, and I longed for the days of normal body-temperature. Scalding hot water would've felt really good right about now. Maybe it would've stopped me from feeling so much inner pain. Instead, all I got was tepid water streaming over my heated skin, and I rested my head against the shower wall with a sigh of pure self-loathing.

I was such a horrible person. The truth was, right after Jacob had imprinted, I was furious. Furious with him for betraying us by imprinting on a half-vampire, furious at him for fixing everything so perfectly, furious at him for being happy when I was not. Once again, I was alone in my misery, and I'd lost the one person who understood exactly what kind of hell I was living in. I hated myself for that. I hated myself for the apologetic, almost ashamed look on his face when he'd told me about his bond with Nessie. I hated, more than anything, how well he understood my reaction to the news.

Jacob tried not to talk to me too much yet, and I knew it was just because he was afraid of finding out how deeply he'd betrayed my trust. First Sam, and then him. Not that we were anything more than friends, but still. Fate seemed to like kicking me in the gut after I'd fallen down the stairs.

At least I was still his second-in-command. For now. With Quil and Embry around, I figured it was only a matter of time until my demotion. So, I was being as careful as I could to keep my bitterness in check. I didn't have to be a living nightmare to be around if I tried hard at it.

The hot water had long since run out, and I finally stepped out of the shower and scrubbed myself dry with more force than necessary. Without thinking too much about it, I threw on a tanktop and a pair of jeans and swiped the fog off the mirror to scowl at my reflection.

I hated my short-cropped hair, hated the reason for it. I used to have such long, beautiful hair before my transformation. My mother had cried, big, fat, silent tears sliding down her cheeks, when she chopped it all off for me as I sat perfectly still in our kitchen. I had been too numb with shock to cry at the time.

The smooth, bronze skin of my face looked stretched over my cheekbones, my face too thin. Once, I'd had dimples that peeked out whenever I smiled. I hadn't seen those dimples in many, many months. My dark, vacant eyes looked too big for my gaunt face, and I turned away with a heavy sigh.

Would that face be the one staring out at me forever? What a bitter harpy I'd become.

Silently, I sat at the kitchen table and tried to force myself to eat the cold cereal that tasted more like sawdust than anything in my mouth. Unlike my brother, who was always ravenously hungry, there were too many meals I skipped because I had no appetite. Sam – I still couldn't think his name without a painful stab in my chest- had told me once that I needed to eat extra to keep up with both of my forms. He was right, but I didn't care.

Mom watched me warily out of the corner of her eye as she packed up a small basket of things to take with us to the leeches' house. I knew I worried her, had been worrying her for a long time now, so I worked harder at getting the cereal down my throat.

"You know you don't have to go to the Cullen's today, Leah," Mom said finally when my last bite was chewed and swallowed. I bit back a sarcastic retort to that, knowing how much she didn't like leaving me home alone to mope. Any company for me was good company, in her mind.

"It's okay. I don't mind so much," I lied through my teeth, rinsing out my bowl in the sink. "Anyway, we'd better get going if we're going to make it there for the pre-game shows."

I headed out to the car, but Mom stopped me with a frown.

"Uh, Leah, is that what you're wearing?"

I looked down at myself in confusion. It seemed like a perfectly acceptable outfit to me. Nothing like what the fortune-telling bloodsucker would be caught dead in, but I didn't have anyone to impress. I looked back up at Mom with questioning eyes.

"It's barely March, Leah. Normal people can't go waltzing around outside in a tanktop yet," she stated seriously, giving me a very pointed look.

Oh. Yeah, she was right. Once I got to the Cullen's, things like that wouldn't matter, but if anyone saw me on the way there, it could raise some awkward questions. Sighing, I grabbed my ratty, old hoodie and yanked it on roughly.

"There. Do I blend in with the humans now?" I snapped, and was immediately sorry when she flinched. Mom hated being reminded that I, her precious only daughter, was the only female werewolf in the history of the world, as far as we knew. Once again, Fate taking a pot-shot at me for some unknown reason. I started to mutter an apology, but she brushed me off.

"Nevermind. Let's just go meet up with Charlie," she muttered.

The drive was silent, which gave me ample time to go over, yet again, all the reasons I absolutely loathed myself. Honestly, if I wasn't such a coward, I would've managed to off myself by now.

The huge white house loomed up in front of us in the cold, misty rain, and I sank down farther in my seat with a scowl. Great. So, what did you do with your weekend, Leah? Oh, I hung out with my mortal enemies and thought about how much I hated myself.

My life officially sucked.

Esme was already at the door, welcoming us in with her trademark, sugary-sweet smile. I did my best not to look at her, because she always made me squirm guiltily inside for being such an unfriendly witch all the time. Seth would- and did, on occasion- fall over his own feet to help her, and deep down I knew I couldn't blame him. A sweeter, gentler person I'd yet to meet. But she was still a vampire, and I couldn't just let that slide.

Inside the door, Edward caught my eye and I looked away as quickly as possible, suddenly doing my best to say "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" backwards in my head over and over again. It was bad enough my whole pack was in my head when I was a wolf. I didn't need some bloodsucker hearing how badly part of me wanted to like his surrogate mother. The problem was, I knew he did hear, and I couldn't help but wonder if that's why he was more tolerant of me than the rest of his family.

As always, Alice eyed me with that same tight-lipped look she gave me everytime I came over. I didn't need to be a mind-reader to guess how badly she was dying to make me over. Once upon a time, I might have been glad to let her do it. Now I just didn't care, and I buried my hands deeper into the pocket of my tattered hoodie.

As I suspected, Charlie was already there, engrossed in the pre-game shows on Emmett's impressive new TV, but he detached himself long enough to come over to greet us. He must be in love. I couldn't stop myself from rolling my eyes when I didn't think anyone was looking.

Jake and Seth were near the stairs, engrossed in some game with the freaky Wonder Child. I wandered over to them, unnoticed by anyone else in this mixed-up "family", to get a better look at what Nessie had talked them into now.

They were playing with an impressive set of new barbie dolls, and I couldn't stop the snort of laughter at the serious look on Jacob's face as he made his two dolls "talk" to each other. Instantly, three pairs of eyes stared up at me from the floor.

"Oh, hey, Leah!" Seth said enthusiastically, bounding to his feet. "Did you and Mom just get here?" I nodded, but he was already heading towards the kitchen before I could say a word. "Great! Well, I'll just go say hi to her, then. You can take my place!"

Nice. Very nice. I scowled after him, just barely stopping myself from sticking my tongue out at him like I had when we were younger. He knew how hard I worked to avoid being around the half-breed freak.

"It'll be fun, Leah. Play with us!" Nessie implored, and I had to look away from her pretty, brown eyes. It took a lot of hard work to keep from falling under her spell.

"Thanks, but I think I need some fresh air," I replied tightly, wrinkling up my nose. I still didn't understand how Jake and Seth could get used to the sickly-sweet, icy stench permeating the house.

"Please?" Nessie pouted prettily, and I was hard pressed to shake my head and start backing away. Jacob, in a rare moment of clarity, patted Nessie's head and smiled at me sympathetically.

"It's okay, Nessie. I don't think Leah really likes dolls. The two of us can play instead, okay?" he said, and she sighed but agreed readily enough with him. I flashed him a tiny, grateful smile before I slipped quietly out of the door.

I was too busy taking deep breaths of the wonderfully clean air to notice that I'd almost run straight into Rosalie and Bella, just getting back from a quick hunting trip. Two pairs of topaz eyes regarded me, one cool with dislike, the other tentatively friendly. Rosalie was the only one left of the Cullen's that seemed to have any sense. She understood how unnatural this 'friendship' between the pack and the vamps was, and she didn't like it any more than I did. Bella, though- freaky, vampire Bella- still wanted Jacob to be her best friend. And now, with our parents getting closer every day, she wanted to be my friend.

"Hi, Leah. Did you come to watch the game?" she asked now, trying to start up a conversation despite my dark, glowering scowl.

"I just came with my mom," I muttered, pushing past them towards the trees. The sooner I could shift to my wolf-form and take off running, the better. I heard a sigh from behind me but I didn't turn around.

"I don't know why you bother," Rosalie said to her as they headed up to the house, and Bella's reply was lost in the wind. Who cares why she bothered? Hadn't Bella gotten enough of everything she wanted in life? I wasn't about to be her next conquest.

Once I was deep enough into the woods that even a leech's sharp eyes couldn't see me, I hastily stripped down to my bare skin, my body already trembling to be released. The transformation was so quick now, so natural, that it barely took five seconds to complete. The trees blurred past me as I took off in a dead sprint, running along the now worn path around what had once been the perimeter.

The silence in my head was blissful. No doubt Seth or Jacob would shift at some point to call me back to the house, but for now I just enjoyed the wonderful feeling of being completely alone.

"Running again, Leah?"

The deep, unwanted voice shook me out of my self-imposed silence, and I groaned loudly in my mind.

"Embry! What do you want?"

He chuckled at my snarl, totally unfazed by my less than enthusiastic greeting.

"Oh, come off it, Leah. I'm just heading to the Vamps'. Can I help it if you're phased at the same time as me?"

"No, but you can shut up and stay out of my head until you get there," I snapped back, and he chuckled darkly again.

"Yeah, 'cause that's even possible," he snorted. "At least if you're talking to me, I don't have to deal with all your angsty issues."

Silent now, I seethed at him, and I could almost see the grin in his thoughts. He just loved that he'd pissed me off and shut me up. And I just hated that he and every other guy in the pack had the inside scoop on every private thought I had.

"Why are you heading to the Cullens?" I finally growled, unable to take his gloating any longer.

"Big game on today. Quil's not watching it because Claire wanted to go to the beach, so I thought I'd head over here. Somebody's got to have it on," he replied, but I caught the hidden thoughts behind his words. He was lonely. His two best friends had imprinted- on kids- and he felt as awkward as I did around any of Sam's pack now.

"How come you're here?" he asked quickly, sensing I'd caught on to a little more than he'd wanted me to. He was at the perimeter now, running hard to catch up with me.

I snorted at the stupid question. "Same reason as you. I've got no where else to be, either."

That stung a little bit, I could feel him wince, and felt a tiny pang of guilt myself. I'd been trying so hard not to be such a harpy, but today seemed to be a bad day for me with that.

"Slow up, will ya? You don't have to prove you're faster than me, you know," he grumbled. That startled me enough that I cut my pace abruptly. Why did he care if I slowed down? Usually the pack couldn't wait to get away from me.

"The leeches are back that way," I reminded him, confusion tinting my thoughts. "You'll miss the first pitch."

"Eh, so what? Nessie can always show me later," he replied, catching up with me and giving an odd-looking shrug of his massive front shoulders. He caught the momentary twitch in my thoughts, and gave me a shrewd look as we ran side by side through the trees.

"How come you never let Nessie touch you, Leah? It's not like she's contagious or something."

I tried to play innocent. "I don't have a problem with Nessie," I insisted.

"Cut it out, Leah. You can't exactly lie to me when we're both wolves, you know," Embry growled, annoyance a thick undercurrent through his words. I'd forgotten how much he hated being lied to, in any form. Half-truths didn't cut it with him, either.

"I don't have a problem with her. Not really," I clarified as he growled again. "I mean, she's Jake's imprint, so I can't have a problem with her. I just don't want to like her any more than I have to."

"So that means you can't touch her?"

"Well, yeah. It just seems like everyone who does falls totally in love with her. No thanks. I can tolerate her. Isn't that enough?"

Embry considered this a second, and I watched the lightening fast flash of thoughts pass through his head. The speed that his brain worked at always impressed me. Finally, he did that odd shrugging thing again.

"Yeah, I guess that's fair. But, you know, the Vamps aren't all bad once you get to know them," he said.

I pulled a hideous grimace at him. "Do not start that. I get enough of that from Seth and Jake, and now my mom, too. I don't care how perfect they are. They're still bloodsuckers. They're still the reason I got turned into a freak."

Embry frowned, and I couldn't keep up with the caliedescope of thoughts whirling around in his head. "Seriously, do you hate being a wolf so badly, Leah?"

Truthfully, I didn't, really. I loved the freedom of tearing through the trees at super-human speeds. I loved the raw power, the strength that stayed with me even in my human form. But there were a lot more things I hated even more.

"Yeah, I do," I answered, thinking loudly over those nagging background thoughts. "I hate everyone being able to see into my head. I hate being the only girl- ever- to be a shifter. I hate being a freak."

"I don't think you're a freak," Embry replied with a big, wolfy grin. If we'd been human, I would've smacked him upside the head. As it was, I took a mock-snap at his ankles.

"That doesn't mean anything coming from a bigger freak than me," I snorted, and he gave a wierd, barky laugh. I stuck my nose in the air and sped up again.

"Aw, c'mon, Leah. Lighten up. At least things are better now being out of Sam's pack, right?" he said laughingly. For a moment, the hair on the back of my shoulders lifted straight up as a growling whine slipped past my lips. I hated, hated, hated that he and Quil knew about how desperate I had been- still was- to get away from Sam. Embry backed off apologetically, and I felt another tiny pang of guilt. It wasn't his fault that he knew all about it. Stupid linked pack minds. My shoulders slumped as the hair smoothed back down.

"Yeah, it's easier," I admitted in defeat. "At least we're not in each other's heads all the time anymore."

"You seem... better. Most of the time," Embry thought tentatively.

"I'm working on it," I answered shortly, not needing to be reminded of what a bitch every member of both packs thought I was.

Embry winced. "That's not what I meant. I'm just glad to see you a little... happier. That's all."

Now I was just stunned, not to mention a little embarrassed. I wasn't expecting something like that from Embry. Seth, yeah. Jacob, maybe. But not him.

"What the hell is this about, Embry?" I snapped, a lot sharper than I meant to be since I felt so awkward. It had been a long time since any guy had been nice to me at all.

Now it was his turn to shift uncomfortably. "Nothing. I just think we- all the guys- we've been a little harsh to you. I mean, it can't be easy being the only girl in the pack. And the whole Sam thing- I can't imagine how bad that sucked, even after seeing it in your head. So, I guess I just feel a little bad about that. Okay?"

I was so stunned that I stopped dead in my tracks. He skidded to a halt several feet away and wheeled around to face me with an uncertain, embarrassed look on his face. My thoughts whirled chaotically, and for once I really didn't care that he could see them. An apology? To me? It was vaguely pathetic that I felt like it was the nicest thing anyone had ever said to me.

"Well... thanks, Embry," I finally thought clearly to him. "Really. But, you know it was kind of my fault for being such a pain in the butt all the time."

"Pain in the brain, you mean," he snorted that weird barky laugh again, and I groaned at his lame joke.

"You're gonna miss the whole game," I reminded him, rolling my eyes.

"You could come watch it too, you know," he replied, a hopeful note coloring his thoughts. Being in my head like he was, he knew how much I used to love watching the games with my dad. I thought quickly about the house crammed full of stinking bloodsuckers and shook my head.

"I don't think so. I'm kind of a damper on everyone's parade, if you know what I mean," I finally answered slowly.

"Aw, that's just 'cause you frown all the time. You used to be really pretty when you smiled."

I snapped again at him, and he grinned and took off at full-speed toward the house. I plopped down on my haunches with a sigh, no energy for running anymore. Used to be. Ouch. That really stung, especially since I knew it was all too true.

"I still think you're pretty."

Embry's thought floated through my head, stunning me completely, before he phased and left me in complete silence.

An apology and a compliment all in one day? Fate must be taking a vacation! I could feel a small grin on my face as I got back to my feet and began loping slowly toward the house. Maybe watching a little bit of the game wouldn't be so bad after all.